Kildare Village was the venue for the well attended WTTC seminar on the role of tourism in the digital age. The invited guests represented the travel, tourism and leisure, retail and technology sectors.
The panel was led by Desirée Bollier, Chair and Chief Merchant, The Bicester Village Shopping Collection (including Kildare Village) and Vice Chair of the WTTC. The panel included Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive, Tourism Ireland; Maribel Rodriguez, WTTC Regional Director for Europe and Latin America; Ray Hernan, Chief Executive, Aer Rianta International; Leah Wang, Director of Business Partnerships, CTrip, Asia’s largest online travel agent; and Sarah Miller, founder of Sarah Miller and Partners and former Editor-in-Chief and founder of Condé Nast Traveller UK.
With international travel arrivals set to hit 1.8 billion globally by 2030 (up from 1.2 billion in 2016), the panel looked at how Ireland can combine a world-class tourism product with cutting-edge technology to secure an outsized share of the estimated $1 trillion in additional economic output that will result from the global tourism boom.
Two out of every 10 jobs are impacted by tourism. Tourism is an industry that really helps a country and it is estimated that more than $150 billion could be unlocked by the use of digital technology.
Record numbers of visitors are expected to arrive in Ireland this year. Dublin Airport will have 23 new routes this summer, including new long-haul services from Canada, the USA and China. Last year saw 11.2 million people visit Ireland with strong growth, in particular, from emerging markets. Hainan Airlines and Cathay Pacific commenced direct flights from Beijing and Hong Kong to Dublin for the first time last summer. Kildare Village has emerged as a leading destination for tourists from China and South East Asia. China, Malaysia and Taiwan are the top three markets for tax-free sales at Kildare Village.
Niall Gibbons said that Ireland is well positioned as a hub and that we are well capitalised to invest in a marketing spend that will deliver increased revenue from tourism.
Ray Hernan, Chief Executive, Aer Rianta International, spoke about the challenge of creating a retail offer that appeals to busy travellers: “A lot of travel retailers are realising that we must ‘disrupt’ the customer journey but in a positive sense, by becoming more relevant, enhancing the customer experience through the provision of entertainment or theatre, and creating an atmosphere in the shopping environment.” He added that 57% of passengers do not shop at the airport.
Representing the increasingly lucrative Asian market, Leah Wang, CTrip, emphasised the importance of providing comfortable experiences for Asian customers who are used to highly digitised day-to-day routines. CTrip is the largest online travel agent in Asia and is listed on the Nasdaq with a market value of over $20 billion. Its international business, which includes UK-based Skyscanner, accounted for over 30% of its $1.2 billion revenue between January and March, primarily from hotel air-ticket bookings. Leah pointed out that 80% of their bookings are made from a mobile device.
“Efforts are underway to streamline the visa approval process for visitors from China. If this is successful, and we see a big increase in visitors, then Irish providers will need to ensure that they are familiar with travel apps such as CTrip, and that they can provide digital payment solutions for customers who have become adjusted to using technologies such as WeChatpay and Alipay.”